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Traveling with Your Pet

Traveling with Your Pet

By Mark Hale DVM

Bolivar, MO


            Spring and summer are finally arriving and I am sure most everyone is thankful. With nicer weather, thoughts usually go to outdoors, vacations, and pursuing favorite hobbies. In the past, it has sometimes been hard to include our pets in a lot of these activities. Fortunately, it has become easier to travel with our pets in recent years.

            The main reason the travel industry is changing is due to the economic driving force of demand. Recent studies show that almost two-thirds of all Americans own at least one companion animal. And 9 out of 10 pet owners in the US consider their pet as a family member. The study even found that two out of three pet owners have bought their pet a holiday present, and one out of three have bought their pet a birthday present. Since pets are so important to families, hotels, campgrounds, and other travel businesses have learned to cater to pets in order to increase business. Following are some tips for traveling with your pet this year.

            For cats, make sure to take their litter box and plenty of the litter they are used to. Traveling away from home can be stressful to some cats, so keep everything as familiar as you can. This includes feeding the same diet as they are accustomed to. Be sure to keep them in a pet carrier when driving. You will need to have them contained in this for taking in the hotel, stopping for gas, and other times. One large enough for the pet, some water, and litter box works great.

            For dogs, you need to be equipped for potty breaks along the way. NEVER allow your pet to be off leash while stopped. In unfamiliar areas things are more likely to distract your dog and a tragedy could happen too quickly to stop. Small plastic bags are necessary to pick up after your dog. It is also important to provide plenty of opportunities for some exercise and drinking water. If your dog is stressed, it can help to pull off to a quieter area away from distractions, and go for a relaxing walk. Try to avoid any change in your pets' diet and do not feed them any fast foods such as French fries. These can cause stomach upset or pancreatitis, and this is obviously not a good time to have a sick pet. Some animals will tolerate these treats just fine, but others can become really sick. It is also better to not feed them a full meal just before traveling. A smaller meal is less likely to lead to motion sickness and vomiting. There are medications that can help with motion sickness.Dramamine┬«, acepromazine, and Cerenia┬« are the three major medications that can help prevent vomiting. The last two are prescription medications. Acepromazine is also a tranquilizer, which may help if your pet is nervous while traveling. Cerenia is the newest and best medication for this and doesn't cause drowsiness. For best effectiveness, always follow your veterinarian's instructions for dosage, and timing of administration. It is also a good idea to have a pet carrier along. This can be used to safeguard your pet if you must leave them unsupervised at a hotel for instance. What if the maid comes in to clean and your pet bolts out the door to escape? Getting your pet accustomed to the carrier at home ahead of time will help it to relax when left in it unattended.

            For any type of pet, be sure to carry proof of its current vaccinations, as these may be required to stay at some locations. A visible identification tag and a microchip are very important in case you should somehow become separated from your pet. If your pet is on medications, be sure that you have enough supply to last the entire time you are gone. Lots of pets relieve themselves at rest stops, so be sure that vaccinations and heartworm prevention are current, and continued as your veterinarian recommends. Proof of current Rabies vaccinations and a current Health Certificate are needed to enter Canada or to fly with your pet. If your pet has had any major illness in the past, it can also be a good idea to carry your pets' health history. Copies of previous treatments and lab work can greatly help a veterinarian diagnose and treat your pet if problems do occur.

            We are fortunate that places to travel have become more pet friendly in recent years. We should promote these locations by giving them our business and cleaning up after our pets. Planning ahead can help make these trips more enjoyable for us humans as well as the pets that are part of our family.